Social agencies in Victoria unite to put a CAP on poverty

Groups work together to create plan for reducing financial barriers

More than a dozen community organizations have launched a campaign to take action against poverty.

“The lessons from … communities across Canada are quite clear,” said Rupert Downing, executive director of the Community Social Planning Council. “Collaborative action on poverty reduction is a critical factor in the success, well being and advancement of communities and regions.”

In creating the Community Action Plan on Poverty, participating organizations have jointly crafted and endorsed a list of 10 shared values, backed by actions to achieve them. They include affordable housing, accessible child care and living-wage incomes.

“The CAP document represents hundreds of people and hundreds of hours, learning how to work together and how to disagree respectfully,” said Claire Rettie, executive director of the Victoria READ Society.  “We’ve also learned that amongst each other, there is a way to harness energy and create hope.”

Progress demands leadership more than it requires money, said Victoria city Coun. Marianne Alto. As one example, she pointed to a program which distributes bus passes to people in poverty.

“The Social Planning Council came to the transit commission and made a very compelling presentation … about why this program needed to be expanded,” Alto said.

The commission agreed and increased the number of passes by 25 per cent.

On Thursday, city council will consider whether to endorse the Community Action Plan.

“While the city can’t act in and of itself to reduce poverty, one of the key things the city can do is to create an enabling environment,” said Lisa Helps, who attended the campaign launch as a city councillor and executive director of Community Micro Lending. “The city has a real role to play.”

Business leaders will also be asked to partner in the plan.

“We’re going to work with employers in the region to certify them as living-wage employers if they step up to the plate,” Downing said.

The wage required to maintain an adequate quality of life in the Capital Region has been calculated to be $18.07 per hour.

Another plan in the works is to launch a community investment fund early in 2013, Downing added. “That will be a vehicle for people to put their savings and their investments in a community-managed fund to help build social housing and (to) finance (other socially-responsible programs.).”

A Community Action Plan on Poverty website went live last week at www.CAPonPoverty.ca.

rholmen@vicnews.com